Rheinhessen Harvest Begins with Bacchus

I arrived yesterday in Nierstein, Germany where I’ll be spending 2 months interning with the Rheinhessen winery, Weingut G.A. Schneider (whose family members incidentally are cousins of my former German professor from my undergrad days at URI). Today was my first day on the job, which I spent mostly in preparation for this weekend’s wine festival. However, today also marked the beginning of the harvest season at Weingut Schneider (and many of the surrounding wineries, as well).

So far, 2010 is proving to be a fairly difficult vintage here, especially given a cold, rainy August that has resulted in the development of rot on many of the grapes. I had a chance to look at a few of the vineyards yesterday and found the Riesling and Dornfelder to be in fairly good condition. However, the early-ripening Müller-Thurgau was looking less than stellar (I had to ask if this is indeed a white grape because many of the grapes I saw were purple―indicative of the rot that had already set in and unfortunately ruined much of this crop).

Grape fizz…

However, the first variety to be harvested was Bacchus—a grape I am getting to know well and love. Not for the wine it makes, but for turning out some fabulous grape juice (move over Welch’s, this is the real deal!)

Bacchus grape must: the presser is automatically programmed not to press the unripe grapes (see the small, green bunches)

Bacchus is a white wine grape that is a cross between Müller-Thurgau and a Riesling x Silvaner cross. Due to its strong flavor, it has often been blended with Müller-Thurgau to give it more impact. However, today in Nierstein it is largely used to produce the immensely popular Traubensaft (grape juice). The juice is not purple, but off-green in color with some brown tones (yes, the real deal) and is quite concentrated. The best way to consume Bacchus juice is by mixing it with carbonated water—something that is done here on a regular basis, morning, noon and night. The result is a tasty non-alcoholic beverage, which the locals refer to as Traubensaftschorle (Schorle is the name Germans give to pretty much any drink that is mixed with carbonated water to make it bubbly).

Harvest protocol

Incidentally, after the Bacchus grapes were harvested this morning, the beleaguered Müller-Thurgau was next in line, with pickings beginning this afternoon.

2 thoughts on “Rheinhessen Harvest Begins with Bacchus

    1. Hi Christian, yes, things here have been really interesting and it’s only Day 3 (ein grosses Hoffest beginnt in knapp einer Stunde!). Enjoy your SA trip and I look forward to meeting you when you return.

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